Broadside Electric uses rock idioms and innovative arrangements to bring new energy to folk music. The result is a hybrid sound that blends the music of different countries and cultures with a striking consistency. The emphasis is on the music of the British Isles, but other diverse influences abound including Klezmer, bluegrass, Balkan, Swiss, blues and classical. "I love playing music from different times and places," notes Amy Ksir. "It gives us new directions to explore."
Much of the band's repertoire is drawn from scholarly studies of traditional music. A favorite source is B.H. Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads which Jim Speer describes as "the definitive collection of old songs about drowning sailors and murderous elves." A song may exist in dozens or even hundreds of variations from all parts of the English-speaking world. "I think the music is timeless," says Tom Rhoads. "It's exciting to find a great song which hasn't been widely heard in a century or more."
The 1993 release of their self-produced first album, "Black-Edged Visiting Card," brought them regular airplay on local folk radio shows in Philadelphia (WXPN and WHYY). They are also heard on the air as far away as Alaska and Latvia! The recently re-released second album, "Amplificata," is a thirteen song collection representing favorites from their live shows over the past years. Their third album, 1996's "More Bad News," adds an even darker and heavier quality to thirteen songs. Their newest release, 1999's "With Teeth," finds the quintet in full-tilt progressive folk mode, and the ride never lets up from the first track to the last. The band promises "this is the only record you'll hear that has a Croatian dance, an English music hall song and a Bob Dylan cover."
The band members feel that their diverse tastes join into a collective identity in arranging and performing traditional music. Tom Rhoads points out: "We try to produce complete pieces which have the depth to reward repeated listening." They use traditional material as a vehicle for their own non-traditional musical ideas. In this way, the band is equally at home with folk tradition and modern rock innovation. On stage and on record, the results of this approach are evident. Folk fans will hear familiar pieces in a refreshing new setting while others will discover the richness of folk traditions embedded in modern multi-layered arrangements.
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